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Society, Love and Marriage in Sense and Sensibility - Term Paper Example

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When Jane Austen began her writing career in the late 1700s it is obvious she based her characters and plots on the world she saw around her. Sense and Sensibility was Austen’s first published work in 1811…
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Society, Love and Marriage in Sense and Sensibility
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Download file to see previous pages However, she did not have her name connected to it because, in her world, she was crossing gender constructs into the male public sphere and would have had to deal with dire repercussions by doing so if her name became known. Writing was a masculine identified occupation or avocation and a world in which women supposedly never ventured. Society in Austen’s era strongly dictated the process of marriage. While Sense and Sensibility reflects societal norms for marriage in the late 1700s and early 1800s, Austen’s work shows a wrestling going on between marriage for money or love, and in the end romantic ideals of marriage for love wins out.
The purpose of marriage changed over recorded history. In ancient times, religion or gods did not sanction marriage. Indeed, if a couple wished to marry, all they had to do was to commit themselves to each other. Marriage was a private affair between two people. Love did not necessarily play a role in marriage. God or gods did not necessarily play a role in marriage either. Even the Roman church did not set about rules for marriage until relatively late in its development. It was not until the 1500s and 1600s - through the process of trying to legitimize children born outside the bounds of marriage for purposes of inheritance - that the rules of modern marriage emerged. Mostly the idea of marrying two people came about to prevent illegitimate children from trying to get a portion of an estate reserved for legitimate children. That idea is borne out in the Bible when Isaac, Abraham’s second son, but the first son by his wife Sarah, received God’s covenant over Ishmael, who was Abraham’s firstborn son but not of a legal wife, and the trouble it caused to Abraham’s ancestors through Ishmael. Marriage became the way to pass inheritance to legitimate heirs born within the bonds of marriage. The Catholic Church solidified the marriage process with the Council of Trent in the mid 1500s. Thereafter, a marriage had to be sanctified by a church in order to be legal. However, that did not mean the two parties entering into a union were in love. In fact, more marriages of middle to upper class families were about alliances that created more wealth, power and land holdings for their families than about love the two parties had for one another. Marriage for love was an idea relegated to lower class individuals at times, if at all. Romanticism was a new philosophy coming into existence just as Austen was growing up and is demonstrated in Sense and Sensibility. Marriage for love is a somewhat fresh idea in 1800. Austen’s text superbly demonstrates the power of men and inheritance laws in the early 1800s. In the particular case of Henry Dashwood, his will left his estate to his son from his first marriage. Austen described the reading of the will: The old gentleman died: his will was read, and like almost every other will, gave as much disappointment as pleasure. He was neither so unjust, nor so ungrateful, as to leave his estate from his nephew;--but he left it to him on such terms as destroyed half the value of the bequest. Mr. Dashwood had wished for it more for the sake of his wife and daughters than for himself or his son;--but to his son, and his son's son, a child of four years old, it was secured, in such a way, as to leave to himself no power of providing for those who were most dear to him, and who most needed a provision by any charge on the estate, or by any sale of its valuable woods. The whole was tied up for the benefit of this child, who, in occasional visits with his father and mother at Norland, had so far gained on the affections of his uncle, by such attractions as are by no means unusual in children of two or three years old; an imperfect ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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